An American man fires shots at police officers, killing one, in a “divorce situation”. Three members of a British family, plus a French man, are killed by an apparent assassin. Online, bullying and “like if you hate” is bigger than ever, especially for children. Thousands of girls are still mutilated by their parents in the name of purity, and some die of blood loss or septicemia as a result of FGM (female genital mutilation).
Rape is still the most underreported crime, in any country, including wealthy Norway (where, shockingly, every single solved case of assault-rape in the country in 2010 was carried out by a Muslim immigrant).
What’s the solution? No guns would be good, but no guns are used on Facebook. Thank goodness.
What do all three of these problems have in common? Someone is not doing good thinking.
The line between evil and mental illness is very thin. The more we discover about healthy brains (especially with the research being done at the National Institutes of Health by Dr. Jay Giedd and his colleagues), the more we know how delicate, how changing and subject to harm, are our brains. In addition, they’re affected by other systems in the body, as well as by what we see and do. If we feed a video game habit, our brains will alter in ways different from those of a person who reads books instead.
Someone is not doing good thinking.
Can we acknowledge that people acting cruelly are not behaving at their highest level? That they are not the best possible persons they could be? That in becoming monsters they hurt themselves as well as others?
Who in their right mind wants to hurt themselves?
There you go.
I’m not saying that those who have broken criminal laws should not be set aside, for the protection of society. They must be. But prison guards know that most of the people under their supervision are mentally ill. Their crimes are the predictable result of mental illness, not its cause. Whether it’s taking mind-altering drugs, failing to take prescribed medication, indoctrination into cruel practices (such as in men who think that women should have no rights), or an undiagnosed condition (which can be longstanding and related to flaws in the brain, like psychopathology), crimes are born from mental illness.
So what are we doing about it, here in the US, in the Western world, globally?
Instead, we try to patch up a system of laws. We object – rightly – to the proliferation of guns and knives, which make cruelty so much easier. We call on right-thinking people to protest against harm, especially the physical. We place people in prison.
What we don’t do is place importance on good mental health from birth.
Instead, we leave children whose parents are proven to be harmful in the same homes. We ignore signs of cruelty. We make excuses. We fail to fund mental health initiatives. Although virtually everyone in the world is affected by bad mental health (as the wrong-thinkers themselves, as a relative or friend or co-worker or neighbor, as a victim of cruelty), we fail to arrest it, cure it, prevent it.
Granted, we still lack all the effective tools we need for every condition. However, if we put money into it, those tools (at least in the West) would be found and produced. If we look only at the huge strides made in the approach to bipolar disorder in the past few decades, we see that there are solutions. If we care enough to investigate.
Mental health care matters more than ever. Pass it on.